Base forms and schema forms

Understanding the two types of forms work with in this manual

z3c.form comes with a few base classes for forms, covering common use cases including page forms, edit forms, add forms and display forms. In this manual, we are actually using some intermediary base classes from plone.directives.form, which serve two purposes: they allow the forms to be “grokked”, for example to associate a page template or register the form as a view using directives like grok.context() and; some of them also provide a hook for schema forms, which use form hints supplied in directives (like form.widget() as we saw in the previous section) that are interpreted by plone.autoform to configure the form’s fields. Whilst we can do everything in code using the plain z3c.form API, many people may prefer the more declarative style of configuration that comes with plone.autoform and plone.directives.form, because it involves less code and keeps the field-specific form configuration closer to the field definitions.

Over the next several sections, we will discuss the various form base classes. A brief overview follows.


This base class is not to be used directly, but is the ancestor of all z3c.form forms. It defines attributes like label (the form’s title), mode (the default mode for the form’s fields, usually ‘input’ in regular forms and ‘display’ in display forms), ignoreContext, ignoreRequest (see below) and ignoreReadonly (which omits readonly fields from the form). It also defines the basic update() and render() methods that are the basis of the form rendering cycle, which we will explain towards the end of this manual, and the getContent() helper method which can be used to tell the form about an alternative context - see below.

plone.directives.form.Form (extending z3c.form.form.Form)

A basic full-page form. It supports actions (buttons), and will by default read field values from the request (unless ignoreRequest is True) or the context (unless ignoreContext is True).


This is identical to Form, except that it will construct its fields plone.autoform schema hints. The schema attribute is required, and must be a schema interface. The additional_schemata attribute may be set to a tuple of additional schemata - see below.

plone.directives.form.AddForm (extending z3c.form.form.AddForm)

A basic content add form with two actions - save and cancel. This implements default Plone semantics for adding content. Note that if you are using Dexterity, you should use the Dexterity add form instead. See the Dexterity documentation for details.


The schema form equivalent of AddForm.


A basic edit form with two actions - save and cancel. This operates on the context returned by the getContent() helper method. By default, that’s the context of the form view (self.context), but we can override getContent() to operate on something else. In particular, it is possible to operate on a dictionary. See the section on edit forms shortly. Note that if you are using Dexterity, you should use the Dexterity edit form instead. See the Dexterity documentation for details.


The schema form equivalent of EditForm.


This is a display form view based on the WidgetsView base class from plone.autoform. You can use this much like grok.View, except that it must be initialised with a schema, and optionally a tuple of additional_schemata. There are several helper variables set during the update() cycle which provide easy access to the form’s widgets in display mode.

Context and request

When a form is first rendered, it will attempt to fill fields based on the following rules:

  • If ignoreRequest is False (as is the default for all forms bar display forms), and a value corresponding to the field is in the request, this will be used. This normally means that the form was submitted, but that some validation failed, sending the user back to the form to correct their mistake.

  • If no request value was found and ignoreContext is False (as is the default for all forms bar add forms), the form will look for an associated interface for each widget. This is normally the schema interface of the field that the widget is rendering. It will then attempt to adapt the context to that interface (if the context provides the interface directly, as is often the case for edit and display forms, the context is used as-is). If no such adapter exists, form setup will fail. If this happens, you can either set ignoreContext = True (which is normally appropriate for free-standing forms like the examples earlier in this manual), supply an adapter (which is normally appropriate for forms that edit some aspect of the context), or override getContent() to return a content that is adaptable to the schema interface.

  • If no request or context value was found and the field has a default value, this will be used.

Primary and additional schemata in schema forms

When using a schema form, it is possible to set two form properties supplying schemata for the form:

  • schema is required for all schema forms, and must point to a schema interface. This is known as the default or primary schema for the form.

  • additional_schemata is optional, and can be set to a tuple or list of schema interfaces. These will also be included in the form.


If you want to make the schema dynamic, you can implement these as read-only properties. this is how Dexterity’s add and edit forms work, for example - they look up the primary schema from the type information in portal_types, and additional schemata from behaviours.

Later in this manual, we will learn about creating tabbed fieldsets, also known as groups. The schema forms support a property autoGroups which default to False. When set to True, the primary schema will be used as the primary fieldset, and each schema in additional_schemata will become its own fieldset. The schema name will become the fieldset name, and its docstring will become its description. This is somewhat inflexible, but can be useful for certain forms where the fieldsets need to be dynamically looked up.